1. Sports
  2. /
  3. HomeTeam

Central goes on the offensive, rebounds from winless season

The Bears utilize one of the area’s top running backs, Contae Cason, to his full potential and are off to an unbeaten start.
Running back Contae Cason has helped lead the Bears to a 3-0 start to the 2019 season, merely a year after Central went 0-10. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
Running back Contae Cason has helped lead the Bears to a 3-0 start to the 2019 season, merely a year after Central went 0-10. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]
Published Sep. 12, 2019

BROOKSVILLE — The yards and touchdowns are piling up like crazy for Central High running back Contae Cason — 717 yards and 15 touchdowns — in only three games.

A little math: That’s an average of 239 yards and five touchdowns a game.

A little more math: That’s an average of 13.5 yards a carry for the 3-0 Bears.

“(Cason) has simply been awesome,” first-year Central coach Robert Walden said. “I’ve never seen a kid whose legs never stop moving like his. He just doesn’t want to go down. Most of the time he doesn’t go down.”

MORE FOOTBALL: Mitchell repeats strong start; now the challenge is maintaining it

And Central’s hopes have gone from the absolute pits to up, up, up.

A year ago the Bears went 0-10, and the offense scored two touchdowns — all season. They were shut out six times and averaged 73 rushing yards a game.

“We were not a good football team, to say the least,” senior offensive lineman Zach Carmack said. “We were undisciplined. No one bought into what we were doing. We didn’t work hard enough.”

Cason, meantime, had only 26 carries through the first six games. He finally started getting the ball in the final four (average of 23 carries a game), but by then most of the team was just trying to get to the finish line.

“When the season was over, the group coming back was pretty mad about the way things went,” Carmack said. “We said we are not going to let this happen again.”

MORE HIGH SCHOOLS: Promising Jesuit swimmer seeks to overcome rare disorder

And, Carmack said, “We also knew we had a rare talent in (Cason). We could see it. We knew it. We said it wouldn’t be right to not put his talent to full use. That meant we all had to get better and stronger.”

They went to work, lifting and running together.

The spring came and went and they were noticeably stronger and improved, then coach John Warren suddenly left for another job.

With no coach, the Bears, led by Cason and Carmack and several more determined seniors, kept organizing workouts on their own.

“We were in it together,” Cason said. “We are in this together.”

MORE FOOTBALL: Stakes are high in Clearwater-Largo rivalry

With the hire in July of Walden, a longtime coach at Explorer K-8, the organization and determination tightened up that much more.

“(Walden) has made us way more disciplined, way more fundamentally sound,” Carmack said. “We have done a complete 180. We found out that if we do our jobs correctly up front, if we give (Cason) just a little opening, a little hole, he take it all the way to the house.”

Of course a big part of the Bears’ spark is that Cason is much stronger and quicker than he was last year.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound junior has increased his bench press 75 pounds to 225 and increased his squat 150 pounds to 500. His electronic 40 time is 4.5 seconds, and his cuts and jukes, thanks to hours of bounding and ladder drills, are lightning.

“I’m a different person this year,” Cason said. “A different athlete.”


“My main goal is to make everybody around me better,” Cason said. “I know that none of this would have happened without my teammates doing what they are doing. I couldn’t have done any of this without my boys.

“We also know we have a lot more to do.”

Football, Week 4

Mitchell at Pinellas Park, 7:30

Admiral Farragut at Cambridge Christian, 7:30 (at Skyway Park)

Lecanto at Central, 7:30

Nature Coast at Wiregrass Ranch, 7:30

Tampa Catholic at Land O’Lakes, 7:30

Zephyrhills at Wesley Chapel, 7:30

Clearwater at Largo, 7

East Bay at Gaither, 7:30

Middleton at Jefferson, 7:30

Lennard at Newsome, 7:30

Tampa Bay Tech at Plant, 7:30

Lakeland at Plant City, 7:30

Bloomingdale at Durant, 7:30

Alonso at Steinbrenner, 7:30

Lakewood at Boca Ciega, 7

Sunlake at East Lake, 7:30

Dunedin at Seminole, 7:30

St. Petersburg Catholic at Clearwater Central Catholic, 7:30

Hernando at Crystal River, 7

Citrus at Weeki Wachee, 7:30

Anclote at Gulf, 7:30

Cypress Creek at Pasco, 7:30

Chiefland at Hudson, 7:30

River Ridge at Tarpon Springs, 7:30

Florida A&M at Zephyrhills Christian, 7:30

Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic at Bayshore Christian, 7

Blake at Hillsborough, 7:30

King at Brandon, 7:30

Seffner Christian at Carrollwood Day, 7

Chamberlain at Bradenton Bayshore, 7:30

Spoto at Freedom, 7:30

Sarasota Booker at Jesuit, 7:30

Leto at Sickles, 7:30

American Collegiate at Tampa Bay Christian, 7

Riverview at Haines City, 7:30

Gibbs at Robinson, 7:30

Lakeland Kathleen at Strawberry Crest, 7:30

Wharton at Palm Harbor University, 7:30

Elder (Ohio) at Clearwater Academy, 7

Countryside at Osceola, 7:30

Indian Rocks Christian at Keswick Christian, 7

Northside Christian at Foundation Academy, 7


  1. You'll find Chimera Iloanya and Seffner Christian at the Lakewood MLK Holiday Classic this weekend. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Looking for some stellar hoops matchups this holiday weekend? Hosts Lakewood and Chamberlain have you covered.
  2. Hillsborough senior forward Cantia Rahming, right, is among the nation's leaders in rebounds per game. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The senior has been a menace on the boards after missing out on significant playing time in last year’s run to the state final four.
  3. In his one season at Middleton, Mike Williams led the grieving Tigers to a 5-5 record. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The former Plant High player takes over for David Mitchell, who steps down to deal with health issues in his family.
  4. Florida receiver Josh Hammond (18) on the field during practice for the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Monday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Plus Plant High product Jake Fruhmorgen’s journey from Clemson to UF to Baylor to the East-West Shrine Game.
  5. Justin Lucena has been with Sunlake since he was a freshman, enduring losing seasons before the recent turnaround. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
    The Seahawks endured years of losses but confidence is high in this group that a playoff run, and possibly a district title, are in reach.
  6. Teammates watch as Lakewood's Elijah Jackson leaps from near the free-throw line as he goes up for a slam dunk during practice. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    No matter how tight a game, the green light is always on for the Spartans boys basketball team, a state title contender again, to rattle the rim.
  7. University of Florida commit Alexa Goldberg is a veteran presence for a St. Petesrburg team that hopes to return to the state final four. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    The Green Devils’ roster may not be the same, but there is still that mix of youth and experience that served them well a year ago.
  8. Marcellus Crutchfield was just one Tampa Catholic player whose family recently hosted Australian players from a prominent Catholic school in Melbourne. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
    The Crusaders are the perfect hosts for a Catholic school team from Australia that is enamored of the American game.
  9. Dionte Blanch, right, and East Lake remain on top of our rankings after running their unbeaten mark to 15-0. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    East Lake, the last remaining unbeaten team in the area, remains in the top spot for the second straight week.
  10. Tampa Prep's Kailyn Gilbert (2), center, charges past Wesley Chapel's Ameria Christopher (5) during a game earlier this season. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    When it comes to scoring and rebounding, these three girls and guys are among tops in the state. And word to the wise: Stay out of Kailyn Gilbert’s way.